There but For the Grace of God … Helping is the Greatest Reward

Alief, whose owner is homeless, was in need of medical attention. April Dyess of Mansfield found medical help for Alief and is working to get a regular home for him and his master James, along with another man, David, who is living in his car. Photo courtesy of April Dyess

One Person Can Make A Difference, But a Community Working Together Can Make a Bigger Impact

A wise person once said a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

And while a pair of homeless men in Mansfield have a ways to go to turn their life around, folks like April Dyess are leading the charge to help them on that journey.

So often, people are hesitant to help for one reason or another – none of which makes sense to those with a heart that truly wants to assist. People like April.

“Helping one person won’t solve the problem.”

“They’ll just spend the money on booze or drugs.”

“They got themselves there, they can get themselves out.”

We’ve all heard it. April has heard it.

Fortunately, she is one who is not giving such comments credence. We have too many homeless in the world and too few folks like April.

Not to say there aren’t a lot of people who want to help and certainly do. But can there ever be enough, given the state of society today?

April has reached out to the Mansfield community to join her in helping David, James and his dog Alief. All three are homeless – unless you consider the car David is sleeping in a home.

“I found out about James and Alief on July 11 when I saw him and his dog sitting out under a tree in the parking lot of Target in Mansfield. They looked really hot and the temperatures that day were around 108,” April recalled. “I was with my daughters, and we stopped to see if we could get him food or drink. He said he didn’t want any food because it was too hot to eat but he needed water.”

So, April bought some water and not only brought it back to him, she stopped, sat and asked his story and why he was homeless.

“It’s a lot to go into but it’s definitely a string of very unfortunate circumstances,” she said. “It was in that moment I thought to myself, I am really just one paycheck away from being just like this man. I think a lot of people are in a similar situation, especially with the cost of living going up, loss of jobs with COVID etc.

Rallying The Mansfield Community

“So, when I met him, my heart really went out to his situation. And I thought maybe I can rally to get some help from the community, so I took a chance.”

April posted about James and Alief on Facebook on the group page Mansfield Talk and Share. She briefly told the community about them – she didn’t yet know about David, but when she found out about him, she did the same.

“After I made the post message after message came in to me personally asking how each person could help out,” she said.

Many people donated money for a hotel room for James and Aleif, and also one David, who was living in his car. While it was only about a week, it got them out of the intense heat for a little while – and, of course, April would love to help find more stable housing for them.

April also created an Amazon wish list to help with some supplies.

“Everyone pretty much got everything that they needed on their list, so that was such a blessing that the community came together to get them out of the heat and get them some of the supplies that they needed,” she said.

April admitted to having never helped any homeless before. She had always been more of an animal advocate, and it was Alief that prompted her rally, she said.

“She was in pretty bad shape with skin allergies to the point that her ears were inflamed almost completely closed and her skin was raw. You could tell that she was very miserable,” April recalled.

Having worked with animal rescue, April connected with Mansfield Animal Control and a veterinarian named Sarah Shull. April had previously picked up dog food from Dr. Shull for a rescue, so she reached out to see if the city would help Alief.

“The city was happy to help as they have a fund specifically in place for those in need of assistance with their animals,” April said.

Alief is doing much better medically, April said. However, there is still much that needs to be done to help him and master. Same for David.

The current status of James and Aleif is they are back on the streets living in a tent in the woods, April said. David is back to living out of his bronco. She is hoping for the city and/or more citizens come forward to help them even more.

“I’m aware there aren’t many resources here in Mansfield. I am aware that there is a church that tries to help the homeless called Mansfield Mission Center,” she said.

“Part of the issue with James is that his dog is a service dog, and he will need to find some type of job to take his dog with him. If not, he would need a place to keep the dog cool and safe during the day while he worked.

Meeting The Needs

“Ideally both men are in desperate need of transportation that is reliable and a roof over their head – one the dog can be in – which is actually harder to come across than one would think for homeless folks. Most of these places do not allow them to take the dogs with them. The couple that does are usually booked up and there isn’t much room.”

April said David does now have a job, but that it’s very temporary. He also has health concerns of his own, having had a stroke, along with currently battling neuropathy and diabetes, creating issues with him working at certain places.

“He doesn’t make much money, but we are working towards trying to find him a place with his health concerns to work,” she said.

James does not have a vehicle and finding work for him has been difficult as he would need transportation to get to and from.

“I have done some research on this, and I would like to see Mansfield embrace the homeless population. There are several things I think that as a community we could put in place to give opportunities to those less fortunate,” April said.

Solutions & Ideas To Help Mansfield’s Homeless

One idea April would like to see Mansfield mirror is Fort Worth’s Clean Slate, funded by the city and run by the Presbyterian Night Shelter. It pays homeless in the area to pick up trash.

“If a few of us could get that started we could create a fund for people to donate that would help the homeless with things like living situation, transportation, medical needs, jobs, etc. until they could get on their feet,” April said.

April recommends local churches everywhere open their doors to provide a cool/warm place for the homeless population during the day. Some churches in Fort Worth are doing this.

And, as always, meals are greatly needed.

In the meantime, she is still hard at work trying to get more help for James, David and many more like them.

“The most important thing for me to do right now is to invest some time into researching each of the resources that was provided to me and see what Mansfield can do to embrace the different ideas of other cities/initiatives that we may be able to help folks like James and David more readily,” she said.

And she can use all the help she can get. If you are interested in helping in her cause, reach out to April on Facebook. While you’re at it, ask others to join in.

After all, as April said, life in a home and life on the streets is too often these days separated by a single paycheck.

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Rick Mauch
Rick Mauch is a veteran of more than four decades in the media. He began writing in high school and immediately went into broadcasting for almost a decade after graduating, working his way to morning drive in Birmingham, Alabama. However, realizing how much he missed writing (though he did continue to do some during his time in top-40 radio), Rick returned to what he loved and has been doing it ever since. Rick's career has spanned a plethora of media outlets, including community journalism, sports, entertainment, politics and more. He's worked in print, broadcast and online media. He also spent several years doing public relations for a children's home in East Texas - still writing on the side, of course. When he's not writing, Rick loves to play golf and do Bigfoot research. He's an avid believer. He also made his first hole-in-one in June of 2020. Rick is married to Junell Mauch. They have five children and three granddaughters